Thursday, August 19, 2010

385. Pretzel Logic- All downhill after the title.

Album: Pretzel Logic
Artist: Steely Dan
Year: 1974
Genre: Rock

  1. Rikki Don't Lose That Number
  2. Night by Night
  3. Any Major Dude Will Tell You
  4. Barrytown
  5. East St. Louis Toodle-Oo
  6. Parker's Band
  7. Through with Buzz
  8. Pretzel Logic
  9. With a Gun
  10. Charlie Freak
  11. Monkey in Your Soul

Steely Dan are probably the dullest band ever named after a sex aid. It's a piece of trivia gleefully shared by rock fans all over the world- Steely Dan got their name from a strap on dildo mentioned in The Naked Lunch by William Burroughs. You would expect a musical act with that start in life to be a bit edgy and dangerous. You'd think they would play the sort of music that your mother would hate and they'd be courting controversy at every opportunity. You'd be wrong. Oh god you'd be wrong.

Steely Dan are regarded in most rock circles as a bit dull. They're considered not very adventurous and a tedious outfit who play a boring mix of Rock and Jazz. On the strength of Pretzel Logic I'd have to say the reputation is entirely justified. This is tedium at it's most finely crafted. Steely Dan seem to have avoided the excitement of rock and the spontaneity of Jazz and replaced them with a predictable nature that lifts monotony to new levels.

The song that you probably know from this album is Rikkie Don't Lose That Number, which opens the album and gets it off to a deplorable start. I don't know about you but I've always hated this song. It manages to pull of the unique trick of being boring and annoying in equal doses. The "Rikkie don't lose that number, it's the only one you want" refrain is one of those annoyingly catchy, repetitive lines of music that gets stuck in your head and provides a constant but dull soundtrack to your day. It will sit there in your brain and adds an extra shade of grey to your life making everything you do that much more dull and irritating. It's wrong but not the only crime on the album.

Kicking off side two is Parker's Band, which would just be a simpering stain of tedium if it wasn't a tribute to Charlie Parker who is one of the most interesting musicians jazz ever produced. Parker's Band is hideously upbeat and jaunty melody that sounds like it was rejected from a B-grade musical. Offering it up as a tribute to Parker is like someone trying to produce a memorial to Jimi Hendrix on the Swanee whistle. It actually made me angry.

But these aren't the only tracks not to like on this hideous album. Almost every song is dripping with over-produced vocals and dull instrumentation at best and annoyingly cloying melodies at worst. Any Major Dude Will Tell you has a frankly stupid name but in fact it's the songs only redeeming feature. The chorus proves that the irritation caused by Rikkie wasn't just a fluke- these guys can do effortlessly irritating in their sleep. It's like breathing to them and I wish they'd stop doing both. With a Gun is the same again- annoying and repetitive. The other song that I was surprised I recognised on this album was Barrytown which I did know but only because Ben Folds has done a cover. Check out Ben's version, it's a lot better.

I struggle to understand how Steely Dan can be described as Jazz Rock. To my ears it's all just pop, and annoying pop at that. Listening to Pretzel Logic is only slightly less painful than being violated by their namesake. Avoid.

Highlight: Barrtown
Lowlight: Everything except Barrytown

Influenced by: Charlie Parker (but not so it shows)
Influenced: Ben Folds.

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So Pretzel Logic. It will get stuck in your head, but will it torture or delight you when it does? Let me know below.

1 comment:

  1. They say they are a great live band. Whoever "they'are.